First, I’d like to thank Ted for inviting me to guest-post on his little piece of the Internet. Since Ted’s latest release, The Wrong Sword, is a medieval fantasy tale that includes a rather famous weapon, I thought I’d discuss one of my favorite places on earth that also happens to be a museum of medieval relics.
It’s called the Higgins Armory Museum, and it’s in Worcester, Massachusetts. Higgins Armory houses over 4,000 historic items, a collection that includes arms and armor dating from Ancient Greece and Rome to Medieval and Renaissance Europe, with additional pieces from Africa, the Middle East, India and Japan. It has hundreds of swords, staff weapons, lances, and even some of the earliest firearms. Most notably, Higgins has two dozen full suits of armor on display, along with fully mounted knights on horseback. If that isn't enough, there is also plenty of artwork from the age of chivalry.
Visitors to the Higgins Armory are often bowled over by the Great Hall, in which the three- story vaulted ceiling, gothic architecture and stained glass windows offer a castle-like atmosphere that befits the stunning collection of artifacts.
Higgins is much more than an assemblage of shiny, pretty, old stuff, however. For the researcher, writer or scholar, it has the Olive Higgins Prouty Library, housed on the first floor of the building. The library holds thousands of volumes focused on arms, armor and related topics. The actual contents of the library are available online as part of Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s website at www.wpi.edu/academics/library. The Higgins library is open to patrons on Wednesdays from 2 to 4 p.m. but it’s best to call ahead to arrange a visit through the Curatorial Department. This kind of resource is invaluable to historians and writers (like our esteemed blogger and author Ted Mendelssohn, for example).
Are you more of the “hands on” type? Higgins Armory has you covered. The Higgins Academy of the Sword and the Higgins Armory Sword Guild research, practice, teach, and demonstrate the combat arts of the European Medieval and Renaissance periods. These two organizations offer classes and practice on site. They’ve made Higgins one of the world’s most important centers for the study of historical martial arts. The Academy and Guild offer something for everyone, from the young child and newcomer to the advanced, experienced practitioner. You can learn more about their offerings here http://www.higgins.org/training.
If the ancient stuff doesn’t float your boat, the museum plays host to the New England Garrison of the 501st Legion and the Alderaan Base of the Rebel Legion for their annual Star Wars Day. This event features dozens of realistic actors in some amazing Star Wars garb along with several scheduled demonstrations of Jedi sword fighting with light sabers that look so real you’d think you were in a certain famous cantina on Tatooine.
Still not enough fun for you? Maybe you should try the annual Festival of Ale (a tasting of micro-brews), the Tournament of Wines (an upscale evening of wine tasting), Siege the Day (a trebuchet building and launching contest), Robin Hood Day, or any of the other special events and exhibits that take place year round. There is also a newly renovated room called Castle Quest that’s designed to inspire serious play and learning for kids.
I’ve been going to this museum since I was a little kid and obviously, it is near and dear to me. If any of this piques your interest, I encourage you to visit the Higgins web site to learn more about their collection and their upcoming events. You can find them at www.Higgins.org. If you’re in New England, it’s a great day trip. If you’re further away, Higgins Armory is worth the pilgrimage to Worcester!